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14K                                                                                                                     B- POLEVOI

of the various treatments provided. It was a friendly
family united by a great and common grief.

Going round the wards, Vasily Vasilyevich wondered
why he was meeting with such extraordinary success
that morning.

But did he wonder? Perhaps he saw through this naive,
silent conspiracy; and if he did see through it, perhaps it
enabled him more easily to bear the severe, unbeatable
wound he had sustained.

The branch of the poplar-tree outside the window
facing east had already thrown out small, pale-yellow,
sticky leaves, beneath which hung red, fluffy catkins
resembling fat caterpillars. In the morning, the leaves
glistened in the sun and looked as if they were made of
oil-paper. They gave off a pungent, acrid smell of briny
freshness which penetrated the open ventilating pane
and overpowered the hospital smell that pervaded the
The impudence of the sparrows, which had grown
plump as a result of Stepan Ivanovich's generosity, now
knew no bounds. In celebration of the spring, "Subma-
chine-Gunner" had got himself a new tail and was more
fussy and pugnacious than ever. In the morning, the
birds held such noisy meetings on the outside windowsill
that the ward maid, who cleaned up the ward, lost
patience with them, grumblingly climbed up on the win-
dowsill and, poking her arm through the ventilating
pane, shooed them off with her duster.
The ice on the Moskva River had gone. After a brief,
boisterous period, the river calmed down, returned to its
banks and obediently placed its mighty back at the dispo-
sal of ships, barges and river-trams, which during those
stern days served to supplement the sadly depleted
automobile service of the metropolis. Despite Kukushkin's
gloomy forecast, nobody in ward forty-two was "washed
away" by the spring flood. Everybody, except the Com-
missar, was making good progress, and most of the
conversation in the ward now was about being discharged
from the hospital.